Can You Be Two Religions at Once?

Updated on May 14, 2011
E.D. asks from Olympia, WA
21 answers

I was reading a question from a few days ago. The OP is a Christian and her husband is agnostic (maybe?). Her MIL, who spends a lot of time at their home, is Hindi.

Without going to much more in detail, I'll get to my point. Quite a number of the responses to her question were, "you can't be two religions at the same time". Other's implied or stated that a person dedicated to one religion shouldn't/couldn't honor or participate in other religious ceremonies.

This is a subject that peaks my interest. I grew up with an Atheist/maybe-a-little-Agnostic Dad and a super-spiritual-but-not-religious-Mother. They had VERY different practices and interpretations of God and Meaning. Granted, neither of my parents were religious, but I feel the better for having grown up under two perspectives. I am grateful to have been able to experience many different interpretations and celebrations of life and God.

I wonder if your experience is similar or different? (((Please understand, I'm not saying either is worse or better)))

I hope those of you who grew up in polyfaith households, or who raise their children in a polyfaith household, or from those of you who have converted or who's SO/husband has converted to your faith, OR those of you have another perspective to share, will. How does it play out for your family? Can a person have two religions? Can a person feel equally tied to two religions? Can it be a source of connection, hope and faith? Or, does a person naturally gravitate towards one or the other? Does a person dishonor one by honoring another (even if they love both)? I'm really interested in hearing your story and interpretation.

I know I'm awfully vocal tonight! I hope you'll forgive me for the double question ;-) Thanks for any words you wish to share!

(an after thought) I realize that this can be a sensitive subject. My intention was to word this as reasonably as I could - but it's past my bedtime, so I'm not sure if I've succeeded. I am not trying to prove a point or attack anyone. I hope we can learn from each other's experience and be respectful of each other's differences (and similarities). Even if I don't agree with you, I can something from you!

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So What Happened?

Thanks very much for chiming in ladies. I read your responses and have been able to broaden my perspective. I loved the way some of you chose to word your perspectives. It's been helpful. I also appreciate those of you who shared ideas that are not necessarily the same as my own. I was able to grasp where you are coming from, I think.

To me, Faith and relationship with Higher Power/God is a lot like Love. Faith and Love are not finite. Nor, in my mind, is Truth. It's not like a loaf of bread; If I give my children each a slice, the loaf has two less slices to be eaten. I can Love fully (and with action) and still have just as much Love left for myself and to be shared. Maybe even more. I like that. For me, Truth and Oneness is infinite. Having one Truth does not abrogate other Truths.

My husband usually considers himself an atheist. His heart is incredibly loyal, kind, compassionate, and loving. He strives towards betterment and tries to be "good".

Recently (I even posted a question that included some of this), I felt stumped as to how to bridge our "gaps" and communicate through them. I felt like he/our marriage couldn't grow spiritually if his language and perspective didn't match my own. I am in a big moment, movement and awakening, and am putting a great deal of focus on my spiritual growth. What's silly, is that I forgot that he does not have to have a higher power, to feel and move towards Love and action. He can still follow a path of compassion, even if he doesn't feel it is guided or held by something Higher.

I was being a bigot (one who stubbornly or intolerantly adheres to his or her own opinions and prejudices).

I am a believer in Love (I wish we had more words for love, because it's easy to confuse romantic or familial or friendly Love with fundamental Love (I think all ARE manifestations of LOVE)). If someone else is on a path of Love and Compassion, but believes they are led by their own will, or coincidence, or Jesus, or Krishna, who am I to prejudge/judge/criticize them. So anyways, it's good for me to remember this in my own life, and to stay accountable for my own small mindedness.

Thanks for reminding me ;-)

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answers from San Francisco on

No, you can't be two religions. I feel if you are to believe in something, you really believe it wholeheartedly and so to say that you believe in 2, doesn't make sense. Its like half in, half out. So, for me--it doesn't work.


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answers from Norfolk on

I'd say it depends on the religions involved and the level of open mindedness of the people involved.
There are definitely religions that frown on double dipping and there are people who insist it's my way or the highway (or at least fry in ever lasting hell).
If a person can see the similarities between the religions in question and over look the minor variations there shouldn't be any problems.

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answers from Portland on

My mother was a devout Asian Buddhist and my dad was a Baptist from the deep south. They met during the Vietnam was when he was deployed there. It was very interesting upbringing. She went to his church services and he went to her temple gatherings, and I went to all of it. I do believe it is possible to be more than one. I really think it depends on the congregation one worships with. In general, Buddhism is way more accepting (not just tolerant) of other lifestyles, and most Baptist churches were closed-minded. I remember every time we moved (military family) my dad would be a guest at about a dozen or so churches to find the right fit for him.

I also think it depends on how you want to raise your child, too. Neither of my parents tried to "convince" me of the other. I was raised to be a critical thinker and accountable for my own soul by both parents. They were both very respectful and supportive of the others was never an issue at all. I was initiated in Buddhist darma and I was also baptized in the Christian church. So I guess I have all my bases covered;)

I moved around so much and was exposed to so many other cultures as a child, I have come to my own personal conclusion...I think religion is a cultural deal....specific to the culture it exists in. I think every religion has just about the same principles, but the cultural developments denotes how they practice. And since the culture now is evolving more rapidly than ever, so will the practices. I don't think that one is superior over the other. I have seen how much war has to do with religion, and now that I am studying history intently, I see how many lives in history (and currently) have been lost to religious differences. It is also amazing how much Christianity has changed in practice over its history. (I have so far learned about the christian church from medieval ages through present) I am lined up to take bible and religion courses at a christian university soon too, because I want to study it further from a textbook perspective for deeper understanding.

I remember my dad telling me when I was very young, "Just because you might pray to a rock, doesn't mean god won't hear you." He told me that when I wanted to know about indigenous people on remote islands who had no exposure to the bible at any time in history, I wanted to know if they automatically went to hell because they weren't "saved". I have found lots of other unanswerable questions about the bible in my lifetime....but that is another discussion;)

My reply is not intended to offend or rile up any Christians or bible followers. I have great respect for all that try to find their way with god, whatever path they may take.

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answers from Joplin on

I was raised by parents who were indifferent to even the concept of a superior Father has a lot of anger caused by an unhappy childhood and the fact that he was not able to "save" his mother from an unhappy situation ( of which she ended up taking her own life ) my Mother was raised in a strange household that was faith based, but where her own mother thought girls had no worth and that boys were all that mattered ( I can see why both would not embrace religion)
My parents had the idea that faith was a crutch for the weak minded. They wanted my sister and I to wait until we were adults to be able to make up our own minds, that being said I felt a spiritual pull from a very young age, was "saved" when I was in Jr.High after many trips to Kansas City Youth For Christ Rallies. I have attended a variety of churches and learned about many faiths...I feel a bit of envy at people who were raised with a deep faith from the beginning, because in all my years of searching and praying I still feel a little lost at times. My most recent experience with the most in depth bible study I have ever done is with the Jehovah Witness's. I have to say although I am not on board with ALL of their interpretation of the bible that I agree with much of it.
I don't know that you can be "two religions at once" but I also do not see the harm in being exposed to more than one religion...but then again, that is only my small opinion, and I am coming from a deep belief that no matter what your opinions or belief system is that God is a loving and forgiving God and that he can read your heart so he knows our intentions better than we do.
I would be a happy mom as long as each of my children "believed/had faith in" Something.

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answers from Kansas City on

Laurie A said it perfectly. i also feel that Christians to have some things wrong. but that is between god and me. i don't feel "wrong" going to church with my entire family (4 generations) and praying in their way, because i still love god and just because i am not 100% behind certain small aspects of their "dogma", doesn't mean i love god less or will be thrown in hell. we were given freedom of thought. god wants us to question our leaders. the trick is allowing them the same freedom. and i also VERY MUCH agree with Betto O. there are plenty of people around the world who have never been "taught the good news." through no fault of their own. i just cannot think, like the church tells us (some of them) that all those people are doomed to hell because they just didn't happen to be in the right place at the right time to hear about Christ. therefore, that opens up a whole can of worms about different faiths, deities, etc. (and congrats if you can get through this without someone blasting you - i thought your question was very un-rude and honest, didn't see a problem with it at all. but there's always good luck :))

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answers from San Francisco on

spirituality is fluid. it can't be defined. there is no right or wrong way to believe in god/gods/goddesses/great spirit.

religion in human-made, so we as humans can create whatever form of worship we like - it's still worship. if we truly respect one another we must respect each other's religions - which means acknowledging that they all must be valid at the same time, in some way or another. in other words, just as religions evolve, we as humans may pick and choose what serves us and our communities from different models of worship and leave what doesn't serve us. if not, what would those of use do who were raised without religion? i for one am very spiritual, and am open to all that religions have to offer. i have taken pieces of bahai, yoruba, christianity, buddhism, hinduism, islam, judaism, goddess worship and the worship of nature and created what feels good and positive for me. i will urge my child to so the same. anyone who claims to be religious but condemns or judges other forms of worship (or combinations of them) might want to go back to their holy texts and do some real internal work. on loving all beings and witholding judgement.

thank you for your question!

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answers from Jacksonville on

I think alot of people get too caught up in labels. Im this, Im that, Im this form of that, etc. What's important, IMO, is that we find what our belief is, and live our life accordingly. Most people who fully align themselves with one branch of faith find it to be the only way, for them. That is what believing is. I accept that others walk a different path than I do. I also believe that a genuine search for spiritual fullfillment generally leads to the same place, just often expressed a different way.

Im a christian if I was to categorize my beliefs. My MIL is a buddist and my husband practices a pretty even mix. Our daughter is her own person. I want her to find her faith in her own way, but I want to have resources available to her. I felt very forced down a path of religion (different than spirituality) by my mother and I don't want my daughter to feel the same way. On the other hand, I am grateful that I was exposed at a young age and I want her to be as well.
Extremism in any form is off-putting. However, IMO, adhereing strictly to one's faith is not extremism...insisting others live the same way, is. I do think multi-faith households can work when both people are tolerant and willing to accept each others practices. I also think the children will tend to gravitate towards one or the other or neither. Most people have a solid grasp on what they believe and it generally aligns with some standard "religion". That is why multi-faith families exist to begin with.

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answers from Miami on

This is not a straight forward answer. I think its good to give kids some spiritualism and beliefs. I do not necessarily think it has to be any one type. Don't get me wrong we are catholic and my daughter goes to church every sunday and her father who is not catholic but still believes stays home. But my daughter went to a Presbyterian pre-school. In mixed religions it is believed it follows the mom. I know a family that the mom is catholic and the farther is jewish. Daughter went to presbyterian preschool and took ccd classes but the father has taken her to temple. I think its way more important they learn that there is a soul and something bigger than themselves.

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answers from Rochester on

Part of me says no. I do not think that someone can have two religions. Either you belive something or you don't. but another part of me says- why not? I think that alot of people today- esp. younger people have more of an "eceltic" faith. Meaning that they take things from other faiths and develop their own belief system, rather than just believing what they are told to belive.
That being said, I think that your question is really about "devout catholics or whatever having two faiths- then No. However, does that mean that you cannot particiapte in other religious traditions- NO. It is actually helpful to learn about other faiths to understand your own better.

I for one, live in a semi-poly faith house. I am not catholic, but my husband and family are. we celebrate all the holidays and I try to teach my kids about all the different religious beliefs. I think that it will make them more well rounded people.

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answers from Anchorage on

When we raise our children to understand and respect all religions we create a more open, accepting, and tolerant generation than the one before.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You can be whatever you want. Nobody in a free democratic system has to conform to any spiritual or religious norms. It all goes on in your own head (and heart)' so you get to control what you believe.

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answers from Boston on

I don't think you can BE 2 religions, but you can be exposed to many and your can experience 2 or more in your family. Families with 2 religions should encourage each parent to practice their faith and express their values. Kids can learn that many values are universal, and they can benefit from seeing each parent observe his/her respective religion. I think kids can/should attend religious services of each parent. However, I think parents do children a disservice when they don't let the child know where he fits in.

When my husband and I were expecting our child, we decided to raise our child in just one religion - in this case, it was my husband's. (I later converted to this religion, but that was completely due to my own beliefs and studies, and not to achieve a one-religion family.) Customs/traditions of my original religion were respected but not incorporated into my son's observance. The closest analogy I can think of is going to someone else's birthday party - it's their birthday and you get to go to the party and eat the cake, but the rituals (presents, blowing out candles) are the province of the birthday person. I believe very strongly in not watering down traditions or sanitizing beliefs to make them participatory for all. So, for example, in our house, only the Jewish members light the menorah (a religious act), but everyone eats the traditional foods and plays the dreidle game (non-religious acts). When we attended the Catholic wedding of a family member, we (everyone) stood or sat at the appropriate times, but the non-Catholics did not kneel, genuflect or cross themselves.

My son has grown up with a great respect for the Christian religion of many of his relatives, and he enjoyed going to homes with Christmas trees. But he did not have one, and he was not visited by Santa. He ate Christmas cookies but he never sang Christmas carols. It would have been too confusing for him to recite words that did not reflect his faith, and it would disrespect the faith of others but making those beliefs seem secular and embraceable by all regardless of their meaning.

In our synagogue, when the rabbis counseled interfaith couples, the recommendation was that the parents choose one religion for the children. The children should be educated in that religion and not attend classes in a second one. The belief systems are so different in key areas, and kids need to know where they belong. The rabbis usually suggested that the children be raised in the religion that is dominant - that is, that is most important in the lives of the parents. If one parent is more "casual" in their observance and less interested in schooling the child in it, and if the other parent is more devoted to the traditions & observances and in passing them on, then that becomes the child's religion.

Studies show that a strong faith is not threatened by the existence of or exposure to others. Kids can grow up with family members who have different religions, and they certainly can benefit from understanding principles particularly of shared beliefs/values, but they need to know where they belong. So attending 2 different religious schools that teach conflicting beliefs is a problem, but occasionally attending services with the other parent or watching that parent engage in home customs (having a Christmas tree, having Easter dinner) is enriching and strengthening.

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answers from Sioux City on

I think that if you look at religion as a study of truth, then there can only be one truth. My husband was unbaptized and had little faith background when we were married. I was a not so great practicing Catholic. At some point after I was Married I felt the urge to find truth and I began to look into what faith I would like to be. In the end my studies of the early Church Fathers and the Bible brought me right back to the Catholic Church. It was hard on my husband when I really began to study my faith. I began to desire to change things in my life and that change was going to affect him. I explained that I would want him to become his very best and I would hope he would desire that for me also. Fast forward 16 years and he decided to join the Church also. He came into the Church this Easter.

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answers from Los Angeles on

To believe in everything is to believe in nothing. But one can and should participate in the faith practices of other family members IF it does not directly conflict with a moral, teaching, practice of the faith they hold.

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answers from New York on

No, you really can't be two totally different religions at once. I was raised in a not really religious Jewish home and my husband in a not really religious Episcopalian home. People asked how we'd raise our kids as both and I said we couldn't. Neither of these faiths meant anything to us really, so we raised our kids in our own method of spirituality. My mother especially didn't understand why our kids couldn't "know both" faiths. Well, I didn't want my kids to "know" a faith. I didn't see a need to suddenly observe Jewish holidays that I had never before observed as an adult. I didn't want my kids to "know" about a religion in their home, I wanted them to have a spiritual identity. Why would I teach my children to believe things that I don't believe in? But for my mom, it was all empty observance and not real beliefs. She couldn't understand. As for raising the kids to be "both," I don't believe you can. If you have a person from a Christian faith, any of them really, they believe that Christ is the Savior and died for your sins, etc. If you are Jewish, this is not the case and the Messiah has yet to come. They are conflicting beliefs and you can't hold conflicting beliefs. I don't believe in showing kids both religions and letting them "choose." Your spirituality isn't a new car or a pair of jeans where you "choose." It's your deeply held beliefs, and if you aren't raised with any, you likely won't have any.
Having knowledge of, understanding and respecting other religions is not the same thing as practicing or sharing the beliefs of these other religions.

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answers from Albuquerque on

I posted a similar question the other day. My husband was raised catholic, and i was raised russian orthodox. Neither of us have converted to the others religion, nor are we going to. we are going to raise our kids in both the orthodox & catholic churches. Several people thought i was going to confuse my kids by taking them to 2 differant churches. I dont think they will be confused, just more open to whats not considered the "norm". Once my kids can decide which religion is best for them ( even if its not orthodox or catholic) they can.

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answers from Kansas City on

The Bible tells us that we should not be unequally yoked. I don't know that this is only about the name of a persons religion. I think even when two people are in the same faith but one is on fire for the Lord and the other is only luke warm, it still causes problems.

I do believe I've been unequally yoked for 26 years, even though my husband shares my faith. For us it's been a LOT of contention. I think he's sometimes been jealous over my relationship with the Lord. I think he's sometimes felt extra judged by me because I wanted him to be more spiritual. I know at times I HAVE been angry with him for not being as faithful to the Lord and to me as he should be. I also believe that I backed off on my time in the word and have not participated in my faith the way I wanted to and I have suffered because he made it hard and told me that I was neglecting other areas in my life.

I can only imagine what it might be like being in a household with two incompatible faiths. I think it would be difficult. I suppose it's not something that can't be overcome.

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answers from Honolulu on

My dad was raises Catholic my mom Lutheran and they raise us Covenant. It M. not seem like much of a difference but I was taught early on that it is NOT of to do curtain things because my extended family saw it as me making fun of the religion they had (really there isn't much difference, but all the same.)


answers from Hartford on

My household is entirely Catholic, and that's how we're raising our children but I'm making it a point to let my children know that other people believe other things and that it's all right for that to happen. I let them know that right now while they live with us, this is what we'll be practicing and that I hope they continue to believe as their dad and I do but if they have questions about other religions and belief systems they're welcome to ask.

That said, I have a very good friend from childhood whose mother is Jewish and her father was Catholic. Neither was frequently active in their faith but they made it a point to expose her to both. They allowed her and her brother to choose which religion made more sense to them and they both chose Catholicism when they turned 18 and moved out of the house. They both married Christians and are raising their children in the faith.

I think that the only reason this particular situation worked is because neither parent was particularly invested in their own religion or how the children chose. I have some friends where one parent is atheist and the other is religious and neither care, so it's not a problem while with another couple the atheist parent cares much more than the religous parent or vice versa. Whichever parent cares more usually wins out.

The problem is when both parents care equally, and this is something that should be addressed before marriage in my humble opinion. It's not fair to put children in between an important issue like this that is nearly impossible to solve for so many people. Faith is such that both parents feel their beliefs are more correct and therefore more important and they don't want their children to grow up with the wrong beliefs. That creates division in parenting ideology as well as how marriage should be and other morality issues. It's much deeper than parenting.


answers from Eugene on

Of course you can practice more than one religion. Most people who do yoga are actually practicing a form of Hinduism with their other religion but it doesn't interfere.
You never heard of JuBoos or Christians who go to Vipassana meditation retreats.


answers from Stationed Overseas on

I do not believe a person can have two faiths. Usually a person leans towards one faith. Like I am Baptist and my husband is an Atheist and we got married under my religion. Our kids are not going to be raised under a certain religion, when they are older I will let them chose for themselves.

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